There seems to be an all-too-common routine when it comes to setting new fitness and health goals. We tend to idolize what our new life will look like, hit the ground running (pun intended) for the first two weeks, but then come to a complete halt when we feel like we’re not seeing the results we’d hope we would see and forget the main reason why we set the goals in the first place.
If that sounds exhausting to you, you’re right on the money. Staying on track with a fitness routine can feel daunting, but there’s a reason why we keep going back. We want to treat our minds and bodies with kindness. We strive to eat healthy foods, say positive mantras to pick ourselves up, and incorporate exercise regimes that will make us sweat. But why does it sometimes feel nearly impossible to keep up with this ideal lifestyle?
Well, according to clinical psychologist and author of the recently released book, Joy From Fear, Dr. Carla Marie Manly believes it’s based on how much effort you decide to put in. “Research results vary quite a bit on how often new goals are achieved. One compelling study found that 77 percent of resolutions were maintained for one week whereas only 19 percent were maintained for two years. The reason this drop-off occurs is largely due to a lack of enduring motivation. Change takes effort, and many people simply don’t expend the necessary effort to maintain changes in the long run,” Manly explained.
At the end of the day, your health regime doesn’t have to suck the life out of you. There’s a way to incorporate it into your daily life that feels right and comfortable for you. Below are some quick and easy tips from Dr. Manly to help you stay on track with your fitness routine.
Be Willing to Make a Shift in Your Life for the Better
According to Dr. Manly, “Motivation is generally seen as the key factor in making a change. If a person is not sufficiently motivated to making shifts in life, change will be far more difficult. Although getting motivated sounds easy to do, being truly motivated requires being willing to dedicate our maximum effort, time, energy, and focus into achieving one’s goal.”
As simple as it sounds, we’re the only ones who can truly motivate ourselves to do what is best for us. Not your mama, your significant other, not your bestie from 7th grade, YOU. This mindset begins by believing you deserve a better life worth living. This doesn’t mean that you need to exercise six days a week or inhale kale by the truckload to live a healthier lifestyle; however, it does mean giving yourself permission to feel vulnerable and break away from old habits that no longer serve you to find a routine that works for you. Remember to be kind to yourself. Building the strength to be motivated can be the hardest step you take.
“Being motivated can be incredibly difficult to do, as we are often not used to giving 100 percent of ourselves to achieving a goal. Some people find it easier to be fully engaged in achieving a goal than others; a great deal depends on their internal drive, external motivators, innate personality, daily life factors, and the strength of existing habits,” Dr. Manly said.
Understand How You Are Best Motivated
What motivates someone may not motivate you the same way. Before you begin your health journey, it’s important to figure out a method that will help encourage you to stay on track. Dr. Manly recommends asking yourself some questions to understand how you’re best motivated.
“Do you respond well to your own internal positive reinforcement? Do you do best when recognition from others is present? Some people respond best to fear-based pressure (being judged by others, self-criticism, material loss, etc.); however, the fear-based motivators are far less effective than positive reinforcement. Once you know how you are best motivated, use that factor as your secret weapon for success. This may come in the form of getting friends to exercise with you, supportive contacts with buddies who keep you on track with your goals, self-monitoring via an app, or joining a group that offers supportive check-ins,” Dr. Manly said.
Focus On One Goal at a Time
As you’re probably already aware, it’s better to focus on one thing at a time instead of trying to do a million things at once. While you may want to create a long list of goals you’d like to tackle, it’s best to hone in on the one thing you want to change the most, and leave the rest for when you think you’re ready to take the rest of your list on. “Avoid the temptation to make a lot of changes at once. Your chances of success are far higher if you make one or two main goals. As you accomplish these goals, the other areas of your life often fall into place, naturally,” Dr. Manly said.
Aim to Have “Healthy Fitness” as Your Primary Long-Term Goal
Creating a fitness routine doesn’t mean that you should focus on counting calories or losing or gaining weight. Negatively judging yourself is not the way to live or set goals. Rather than comparing yourself to others or hoping for results, think long-term by aiming to build a healthier lifestyle that will sustain long after just two weeks.
“When you focus on fitness rather than weight or muscle tone, you’ll be creating a healthy foundation for sustainable, lifelong fitness,” Dr. Manly said. The body you’re in right now is perfect just the way it is, and at the end of the day, you just want to make sure your insides are looking and feeling as good as you do on the outside.
Create Specific Micro-Goals to Support Your New Routine
When you’re ready to create a list of health goals you want to achieve, imagine the steps you need to take to get there and write them down as micro-goals.
“It’s absolutely important to prepare for change. Tuning into one’s goals — a vital, achievable goal or two — is the first step. Envision the changes you want and begin to plan out micro-steps to achieve the goal. Prepare yourself emotionally by gaining the support of friends, family, or your own natural way of supporting your progress,” Dr. Manly said.
Post Your Goals Around Your House
Placing your goals around your home to visually see them on the daily basis can motivate you to stay on track. “Posting your main goal and micro-goals in a place where you can see them frequently (bathroom mirror, fridge, desk, etc.). Look at your goals daily, and give yourself kudos each morning and night as you move forward with your new routine,” Dr. Manly recommends. Another tip? Bring your goals with you to work! Leave a list of your goals by your computer or in a notebook to remind yourself about the journey you’re on. Bonus points if you figure out little ways you can incorporate your micro-steps into your work routine.
Create a List of Positive Mantras That Will Support Your Progress
While it’s important to have a support system to help you through this health journey, sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader and remind yourself that you’re the bomb. The best way to do this? By finding positive mantras that will help you manifest your dreams. “Repeat your mantras every morning and throughout the day. For example, two healthy fitness mantras might be, ‘I am creating a healthy way of life just a bit more every day’ and ‘I am noticing what makes me feel good — and I’m doing more it!’” Dr. Manly said.
Have a Fitness Affirmation Jar to Keep Yourself Motivated
In addition to your daily mantras, create a fitness affirmation jar and place it in an area of your home where you can easily access it, such as on top of a nightstand or by the front door. “Put slips of paper in your fitness jar as reminders of your micro-goals. Fitness affirmation ideas: ‘Eat your fruits and veggies!’ ‘Take the stairs today whenever possible!’ ‘Get outside for an extra 15-minute walk.’ ‘You are creating a healthy, fit way of life!’ ‘Take 20 minutes today to show yourself some TLC with a time-out for body stretches.’ ‘Walnuts are a great source of Omega 3s,” Dr. Manly said.
Don’t Criticize Yourself During Your Journey
The one thing you have to remember is that this new fitness routine is a journey — focusing on the destination will only make you anxious and impatient. What’s important to keep in mind is that not everything will go perfectly. You may decide to rest instead of going to the gym, or you may decide to have a few extra fries instead of chowing down on some leafy greens. Whatever you decided to do is part of your journey and it won’t do you any good if you compare yours to someone else’s.
Enjoy this time to learn more about yourself and to understand what does and doesn’t make you happy. Express gratitude to your body because it has the ability to move and be healthy — and at the end of it all, remember to love yourself.